Leading People to Perform

Dr. Relly Nadler: We always pick people who have a unique approach on things and today we are talking with Paul Menzel. Paul has had over a 45-year career leading others to top performance. We really want to interview him to pick his brain about some of the learnings, about emotional intelligence, about what he does as the President and CEO developing himself and then also his team. What does he do to develop a great culture?

Paul was President & CEO of Umpqua Bank Equipment Leasing and Finance. He just recently retired. We will ask him about that because we know that 10,000 boomers a day are retiring. It will be interesting to get some of his perspectives.

He joined Financial Pacific Leasing in 2008 after a 33-year career managing a small ticket leasing portfolio operation in Santa Barbara, California. Paul arranged for the sale of Financial Pacific Leasing to Umpqua Bank in 2013, which established a bank leasing subsidiary operating in all markets of the leasing industry. Umpqua has $22 billion in assets and Financial Pacific Leasing has over $1.5 billion in assets, which he helped grow from $250 million. Paul has an MBA in Business Management and was named “Leasing Person of the Year” by Leasing News in 2005. He has also helped develop a certification in the leasing world; Certified Leasing and Finance Professional program.

Paul, welcome to the show.

Paul Menzel: Thanks, Relly and Cathy. I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s exciting.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Yeah. Cathy, you know I have known Paul for quite a long time, so I’m excited to pick his brain on some of this.

Paul, we are going to go through some of the questions and we’d like to know just a little bit about your history of you as a leader. I know you have done a phenomenal job at Financial Pacific over the years.

What have you learned the most about leadership growing up? I think a lot of times we are shaped by who we are in the past. What were some of the key things that you learned about leadership, that informed you?

Paul Menzel: Well, probably the biggest thing is that leadership just doesn’t happen by itself. It requires developing and nurturing. You hear the old saying, ‘oh that person is a natural-born leader.’ I’m not sure I can agree with that. When I look back at how I became a leader, I never really thought of myself that way, but I think people sort of define you. Eventually, if you display the right beliefs and you act in a certain way – early on I was active in sports, so I believe that sports are a great place to learn about leadership, working with others, using collaboration.

It was probably the early times that I started developing some leadership qualities and of course, if you excel at a certain thing then players and coaches look to you as a leader, so, you are kind of on the spot. You have to figure out what that means. I remember as an early teen, I was put in the position and I really didn’t understand what it meant. I probably messed it up many, many times. From that, you learn.

I was also involved with school activities as a joiner. For instance, I was the senior class president because I was expected to run for that. I learned a heck of a lot during that period of time. Mainly, politics wasn’t going to be for me because no matter what you do, half the people don’t like you. So, I really didn’t appreciate that. That was the end of my political career.

I also know that you can’t anoint yourself as a leader. Some people like to think of themselves as a leader but at the end of the day, it’s the people who look up to you and want to follow you that designates you as a leader.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: So, I just want to say that during the break I was saying that Paul’s voice is very confident, very calming and commanding in a very charismatic way. That brings me to the question, Relly, looking back now, at your career, 45 years of being a solid leader in this corporate environment, what are some of the things that you are really most proud of and about?

Paul Menzel: Well, a lot of stuff has happened over 45 years. Certainly, to me specifically, in my professional life, I think when I reflect back the thing, I am most proud of is having led and managed a company successfully for 33 years through four ownership changes and four recessions. All with the same employee group. I have always been proud of that run; I’ve got somewhat of a reputation in the industry because of it. Particularly because I did it from quaint little Santa Barbara. Everybody was jealous about that.

But I’ve always been motivated by keeping the team together and protecting employees. I think back to some of the decisions I’ve made and some of the successful moves that I made during times of disruption, and in the financial services industry that’s just sort of a constant. There is always some sort of disruption whether it is in the industry or the economy or with your own company. So, I had to manage through those that weren’t necessarily of my making. I was always motivated because I cared about the employees first. So, that is probably my most prideful accomplishment.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: That’s huge.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Paul, knowing you through the years, I think Cathy mentioned, that motivation, the inspiration, the connection and I think for a lot of our leaders, it is that personal touch. Sometimes it is just checking in with people, knowing their names, and knowing things about them. That is always something that I’ve seen in you and people have really appreciated that.

So, some of our contact happened over the years around this aspect of emotional intelligence. How do you see that tying into leadership, from what you have been exposed to?

Paul Menzel: Well, I think at this stage of my life as I’ve learned about the field of psychology that now has become very popularly known as emotional intelligence. First of all, you learn what it is. You understand the teachings and maybe are fortunate to have some training and at this point in my life having actually used it in my career, I personally think it is the difference between success and failure.

I, certainly, in the long run – unfortunately, we have seen some examples of some things that are the antithesis of emotional intelligence in a leadership role. They seem to be working for some people for the time being, but I am a believer that in the long run it is going to fail. It just can’t sustain itself. So, I think it is critical to achieving goals.

Listen to the interview above by clicking on the play button.

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